Stress, Your Spine, Your Health. A Chiropractors knowledge.
A lot of attention has been given lately to the topic of stress. It's talked about on TV, on the radio, in newspapers and in magazines. Most every health practitioner alive knows about the negative effects of stress on health. BUT WHAT IS STRESS AND WHAT DO WE DO ABOUT IT.
I would like to offer a slightly different perspective on the topic. It is my opinion that stress is not the problem. In fact, a certain amount of stress is even necessary for life.
Yes, you read it correctly. Stress is the response of the body to any demand. When a demand is placed on the body, a physiologic response is generated which includes:
- Increased blood pressure
- Increased heart rate & respiratory rate
- Increased oxygen consumption (burning of fuel)
- Increased perspiration
- Increased muscle tension
- Decreased digestion
- Decreased immune system function
This is called the 'fight or flight' response. Its like being on ‘Red Alert.’ The safer we feel in a situation, the less the response. The more threatened we feel, the more intense the response. A decision must then be made to meet the challenge (fight) or leave (flight). Shortly after the fight or flight, full recovery of the physiology to a resting state SHOULD occur.
Any change in our environment is a potential stressor. Gravity, walking, eating a meal, meeting a new person, even falling in love can be called stressors. Classic stressors are work, family and finance which have the closest links with feelings of insecurity and fear. Our ability to successfully adapt to a change in situation with a corresponding recovery of our physiology is required for optimum health.
Stress starts to cause health problems when we fail to recover completely after each stressor in life and the fight or flight responses become accumulative. The problem is that the fight or flight response was only designed to be temporary, but accumulated stress response over time can put us in virtually constant state of fight or flight, this leads to exhaustion of the body systems, symptoms, and eventually disease. When we are in a constant state of fight or flight, we can start to react defensively to most situations in life, we can become constantly tired for no apparent reason and start to have nagging symptoms such as back pain, neck pain, headaches. We can also remain in fight or flight while we are asleep which results in us waking up feeling just as tired as when we went to bed. Sound like anyone you know?
The master controller of the fight or flight response is the central nervous system, which consists of the brain and spinal cord together. The spinal cord acts as a kind of switch board or memory bank for stress responses in the body. This is why stress commonly results in tension around our backs and necks. Every cell in your body has nerve supply that plugs in at the spinal cord. This allows continuous brain body communication.
Interestingly, stress can be created internally by our thoughts and the way we feel about things. Thoughts and feelings are strongly affected by our beliefs which in turn are created by our upbringing and our culture. Thoughts, feelings and memories have traditionally been ignored by medicine because they have no physical form or location in the body. They are regarded in science as being ‘non local’ or metaphysical phenomena. They can however create powerful responses in the physical body. Think of a stressful event in your life or someone who makes you angry and your whole body can ‘tense up.’ Modern science is now showing us that thoughts and feelings are represented by different frequencies by which the central nervous system vibrates. The vibration frequency of our central nervous system is controlled via subtle changes in spinal posture. This is why different emotional states have an associated bodily posture. A depressed person will slump forward for example. Without the postural change, the emotion is difficult to experience.
A special chiropractic technique called Network Spinal Analysis has been developed to release accumulated fight or flight responses by applying gentle adjustments to particular areas along the spine using the hands. This allows the nervous system to recover from previously unresolved stressors and the person can start to express health and a feeling of wellness rather than continuous physical and mental defense.
Research with Network Spinal Analysis has demonstrated improvements in many aspects of physical and mental function from posture and spinal function to mood and concentration.